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The Healing Power of Touch --
And Seven Ways to Get More of It

For you it may be a back rub or a foot massage given by your spouse. Or you may love hugging your kids when they come home from school, or even snuggling up next to your pooch.

healing power

Much of the healing power of touch has been linked to decreases in your body's stress hormones.

Whatever way you love to get it, physical touch should be an integral part of your life.

It's well-known, for instance, that babies who have skin-to-skin contact with their mother have better physical development and positive bonding.

The evidence on this is really astounding. Consider a study of Korean infants raised in an orphanage. The children who received an extra 15 minutes of a female voice, massage and eye-to-eye contact, five days a week for four weeks gained more weight, had greater increases in body length and head circumferences after the four weeks and at 6 months of age than children without the extra stimulation.

We need physical touch not only as babies, but also as adults. Studies have shown that therapeutic touch benefits adults in the following ways:

  • Reduces stress (touching releases two feel-good brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine)

  • Lessens pain

  • Reduces symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as restlessness, pacing, vocalization, searching and tapping

How to Get More "Touch" Into Your Life

In the United States, many people reserve touching for their partner or spouse, and do it only in private. But even among couples, those in the United States aren't very "touch feely."

In fact, French couples spend three times more time touching than American couples, according to studies by Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami Medical School.

Of course, you also need physical touch even if you're single. Fortunately, romantic touching is only one of the many ways for you to get more touch into your life. The following methods can be used by anyone, at any stage of life, and whether you're single, married or somewhere in between.

1. Get a Massage

Massage therapy decreases stress hormones in your body, and according to TRI this may result in:

  • Diminished pain from fibromyalgia and other sources

  • Enhanced growth in pre-term infants

  • Decreased autoimmune problems including better pulmonary function in asthma and lower glucose levels in diabetes

  • Enhanced immune function including increased natural killer cells that help fight HIV and cancer

  • Enhanced alertness and performance

If you're giving or getting a massage at home, Surgeon's Skin Secret Moisturizing Sticks make a great, non-greasy massage oil that are completely natural (they contain only beeswax, lanolin and light mineral oil). Plus they come in eight delectable scents (we especially love the Light Lavender, Honey & Almond, and Berry scents).

2. Hug Someone

A study by University of North Carolina researchers found that hugs increase the "bonding" hormone oxytocin and decrease your risk of heart disease.

In fact, when couples hugged for 20 seconds, their levels of oxytocin, released during childbirth and breastfeeding, increased. Those in loving relationships had the highest increases, but that shouldn't stop you from hugging your more distant friends and acquaintances as well if the opportunity arises!

3. Go Out Dancing

Social dancing, the kind done cheek-to-cheek with your partner, gives you double benefits: those from touch and also from the physical activity.

Mayo Clinic researchers reported that social dancing helps to:

  • Reduce stress

  • Increase energy

  • Improve strength

  • Increase muscle tone and coordination

4. Get a Manicure or Pedicure

Almost all manicures and pedicures include a hand massage or foot massage. This will give you all the benefits of a full-body massage, but concentrate on two areas of your body that work really hard, yet are rarely given individual attention. Guys, you can do this one too!


Hugging increases bonding and even reduces your risk of heart disease!

5. Pet an Animal

Whether it's your own pet, or a friend's, petting an animal will take your mind off your worries and generally make you feel good. If you want to go a step further, owning a pet (and therefore getting to cuddle with it whenever you want), has been found to:

  • Reduce depression

  • Lower stress

  • Improve your exercise habits

  • Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels

  • Lessen feelings of loneliness

6. Hold Hands

A 2006 study in Psychological Science found that holding hands calms nerves and provides relief from stress. The effect is strongest among happily married couples, but even holding a stranger's hand provided some stress relief.

7. Try Reiki

Reiki is a hands-on Japanese healing technique in which a practitioner channels healing energy through their hands and into your body. Reiki:

  • Helps relieve pain

  • Eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Alleviates the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia and thyroid goiter

  • Promotes better sleep

  • Reduces blood pressure

Recommended Reading

The Amazing Benefits of Massage and Different Types of Massage Explained

The Serious Health Risks of Loneliness & The Healing Power of Friendship


Psychological Science Volume 17 Issue 12 Page 1032-1039, December 2006

Psychosomatic Medicine 2005 Jul-Aug;67(4):531-8

Touch Research Institute

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